Treating Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder

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What are the symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain while moving the shoulder or after physical activity, or pain that worsens with changes in the weather
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied on the shoulder
  • Loss of flexibility and difficulty doing routine activities, such as combing your hair, or reaching up to a shelf
  • Stiffness, especially after periods of inactivity (such as sleeping)
  • A clicking or cricking noise when moving the shoulder

How is osteoarthritis of the shoulder treated?

Your doctor will recommend therapies to help relieve your pain. Your doctor may tell you to:

  • Rest your shoulder or avoid activities that make your pain worse.
  • Put ice on your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes a few times a day to reduce inflammation and ease the pain.
  • Take an over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (one brand: Motrin).
  • Do physical therapy or certain exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the joint.

If your pain is severe, your doctor may give you a shot of a corticosteroid (a drug that helps relieve pain and inflammation) in your shoulder or prescribe a stronger pain medicine.

If none of these treatments work, you may need surgery. The kind of surgery you have will depend on your age and how severe your osteoarthritis is.

Tips to Help You Feel Better

  • Limit vigorous activities, such as heavy lifting.
  • Don’t wait for your pain to get worse before treating it.
  • Ice your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes, several times a day.
  • Use over-the-counter pain creams and pain medicine, as recommended by your doctor.